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Cleveland Buddhist Temple Newsletter

Dharma from the Forest City

Supervising Minister Rev. Ron Miyamura, 
Midwest Buddhist Temple

Contact Rev. Anita, Resident Tokudo Minister, CBT at:

December 12, 2020 Edition


Due to Covid–19, The Cleveland Buddhist Temple has suspended in person Shin Buddhist Services until further notice. Please contact us to request a special service. We look forward to resuming in person services soon!


Birthdays, retirement or completing a major project mark the days of our life.  Unexpected events outside our local circle, like the launch of Sputnik in 1957, 911, or this pandemic in 2020 also are marks we easily recall. These events somehow change the direction of our day, and then our life, whether we embrace them or not.

The Buddhist teachings of our interconnectedness in time and space coupled with dependent origination (causes and conditions) offers answers on the whys of this life - why this and why not that…

It removes the dualism of an omniscient/omnipotent “other” calling the shots on my life. We do not offer petitionary prayers to this “other” in expectation to change an event or the course of our life.  We make the choices.  We make these choices with the best information we have, but as taught in business schools, we never have all the information.

Given what we do know, we make the best choice we can.  We plot our course, and make plans to get there. The plan may only be as far as the next moment, hour, day or lifetime.  The question is where is it we want to end up? 

We harbor vague ideas of how we would like to live this one life. We also have firm ideas of what we want, like having partners, children, career goals, service to community, etc. Looking back, I wonder how some of mine came about.  Trying to tease back a few of the complex causes and conditions can reveal a clue.   But rather than looking back, what now?  What is the course we want to set as we are about to enter 2021?

The beauty of this life is we do have the option to “do nothing.”  This default option is as legitimate as any other.  We are closing in on that time of year where we begin thinking about our ritualized New Year’s tradition of resolutions.  Sometimes we make them, sometimes we don’t.  But unless you escaped being steeped in this cultural tradition, it does cross your mind.

This is where our rudder comes in.  Leonardo da Vinci is quoted saying “He who loves practice without theory is like a sailor who boards a ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast.”  Are we much different? 

Without a rudder of sorts, we drift aimlessly.  Having a rudder is no guarantee we’ll get where we want, but it is a near certainty, that without one, we will not.

For me, Shin Buddhism has become my rudder and compass.  Do I fully understand it? No.  Do I fully live by it?  No.  As I never get tired of saying, I am bonbu, a foolish human being.  But the more I say the nembutsu, the more I come to the compassion and wisdom of gratitude for this life and that, the nembutsu, is the rudder that will help stay my course as I travel in 2021.

Namo Amida Butsu.

In Gassho,

Rev. Anita

The Fragrance of Light, A Journey Into Buddhist Wisdom

John Paraskevopoulos

An excerpt from Immeasurable Life, continued

these compassionate manifestations, therefore, are none other than those adopted by the Eternal Buddha in order to reveal true reality to the people of our world. They received embodiment through individuals, over time, who became awakened to this reality and committed their insights to the texts that have come down to us in the form of the Pure Land sutras.

And so it is with the notion of the Pure Land. If we had to use everyday language to capture the sense of inconceivable bliss and liberation of Nirvāṇa, what we find in the sutras is certainly a most beautiful and effective means of doing so and in a way that meets the pressing spiritual needs of ordinary people. While these narratives might seem highly fanciful, we must remember not to become overly captivated by the exotic depictions of spiritual reality that we find in the sutras seeing as they are only forms-albeit very powerful ones capable of attracting our deepest aspiration for a realm of beauty and blessedness which, in any case, completely surpasses our ability to comprehend conceptually.

What lies behind such forms is much greater-even more wonderful-than what is stated. These texts constitute a sacred veil. We can either just admiring the “fabric” of these richly imaginative evocations from the outside, beautiful as they are, or we can ever so tentatively lift this veil to catch a glimpse of the formless light of the Dharma-Body which sustains all these compassionate disclosures. In a way, of course, these texts constitute symbols but not in the sense of being empty signs pointing back to us as their human fabricators but as intimating something inconceivable which we can never fully grasp, in this life at least, except through these images of joy and wonder.

The other feature of Pure Land Buddhism that challenges some people is the emphasis on what is often referred to as “faith”-a word which, unfortunately, has fallen on hard times. When understood in its fullest significance, it denotes, as perhaps no other English words can do, a range of profound and complex attitudes which are perfectly Buddhist. Shinran describes it as an interesting mind “full of truth, reality and sincerity; the mind of ultimacy, accomplishment, reliance and reverence; the mind of discernment, distinctness, clarity and faithfulness; the mind of aspiration and exaltation; the mind of delight, joy, gladness and happiness; hence, it is completely untainted by the hindrance of doubt.”

The term that he used to capture this “entrusting mind” is shinjin (or citta-prasāda in Sanskrit) which means “true and clear heart and mind” because it represents the mind of the Buddha to which we become awakened. This is a far cry from any notion of faith as resembling blind belief. In essence, shinjin is wisdom (prajnā). It is a form of direct spiritual knowledge (“the eye of the heart”) that sees things as they are because it is a vision imparted to us by Amida Buddha, even though we remain “foolish beings” captive to our myriad desires and delusions.

The realization of shinjin, as the breaking through of the Buddha’s beneficent karmic force (also known as “Other-Power”) is what tempers our “blind passions” here and now and close them at the time of death when we attain “birth in the Pure Land” (that is, realize Nirvana). The way in which the awakening of shinjin is manifested is through the nembutsu-the mindful invocation of Amida’s Name in the form of Namu Amida Butsu (“I take refuge in Amida Buddha”).

When uttered with a heart of faith, the sound of the nembutsu heralds the working of Amida who comes forth, on our lips, as a living presence. This is both our call to the Buddha and the compassionate call we received in response. When we ‘hear’ the Name for the first time, and understand its significance, we are then led naturally to say the nembutsu in gratitude while fully recognizing that every genuine utterance is permeated by the “true heart and mind” of Amida Buddha.

Even those for whom shinjin does not feel certain or settled, great benefit can still be derived from simply saying the nembutsu – not because it is some kind of “magical” phrase but because the very act of reaching out to Amida through his Name, even if it is unsure and faltering at first, signifies an aspiration and the seeking of refuge which, in time, will elicit a definitive response whereby we come to feel “constantly illuminated by the light of that Buddha’s heart, grasped and protected, never to be abandoned” (Shan-tao).

The Fragrance of Light, A Journey Into Buddhist Wisdom Compiled and edited by John Paraskevopoulos. Sophia Perennis, an imprint of Angelico Press.

Cleveland Buddhist Temple

21600 Shaker Blvd, Shaker Heights
Ohio 44122 United States

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